Objective: The present study examined food shopping behaviours, particularly distance to grocery shop, and exposure to discrimination.
Design: Cross-sectional observational study utilizing data from a community survey, neighbourhood food environment observations and the decennial census.
Setting: Three communities in Detroit, Michigan, USA.
Subjects: Probability sample of 919 African-American, Latino and white adults in 146 census blocks and sixty-nine census block groups.
Results: On average, respondents shopped for groceries 3·1 miles (4·99 km) from home, with 30·9 % shopping within 1 mile (1·61 km) and 22·3 % shopping more than 5 miles (8·05 km) from home. Longer distance to shop was associated with being younger, African-American (compared with Latino), a woman, higher socio-economic status, lower satisfaction with the neighbourhood food environment, and living in a neighbourhood with higher poverty, without a large grocery store and further from the nearest supermarket. African-Americans and those with the lowest incomes were particularly likely to report unfair treatment at food outlets. Each mile (1·61 km) increase in distance to shop was associated with a 7 % increase in the odds of unfair treatment; this relationship did not differ by race/ethnicity.
Conclusions: The study suggests that unfair treatment in retail interactions warrants investigation as a pathway by which restricted neighbourhood food environments and food shopping behaviours may adversely affect health and contribute to health disparities. Efforts to promote 'healthy' and equitable food environments should emphasize local availability and affordability of a range of healthy food products, as well as fair treatment while shopping regardless of race/ethnicity or socio-economic status.